So that’s what it feels like to have the hero we need, but not the one we deserve? Or put another way: just what has happened to Canadian tennis?
For a few years now, the country has seemed on the verge of finally (finally!) breaking through and joining the ranks of the worldwide powers thanks to its three foremost flag bearers. Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard, ranked No. 8 and No. 12 respectively, are Canada’s best ever singles players in the ATP World Tour and WTA Tour, and have been for quite some time. Vasek Pospisil, ranked No. 56 but with a career-high of No. 25, would be just that too, if not for the presence of Raonic.
But the trio’s results in 2015 have been, erm, rather uneven. As Wimbledon marches on to its second week, Pospisil remains the lone Canadian standing after coming back from a two-set deficit and reaching the quarterfinals by defeating Viktor Troicki by the score of 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 and 6-3.
This win was Pospisil’s first after trailing by two sets and also marks his first time reaching the quarterfinals of a major tournament; it’s also a win that has restored the country’s faith in the young man, who had been somewhat disappointing since helping Canada reach the Davis Cup semifinal in 2013. (This is where the reader complains and says, “Well actually doubles!” and, sure, yes Pospisil has excelled in doubles. But in tennis, there might as well only be singles and no doubles, considering the money and resources allocated to covering the former and not the latter.)
Raonic had bowed out of Wimbledon long before Pospisil finished off Troicki, falling in the third round against the fiery Australian Nick Kyrgios. The Canadian was seeded No. 7 this year at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club but, having been limited with an injury during the spring, a repeat of last year’s semifinal was always a long shot.
Raonic says discomfort/pain stemming from recent foot surgery led to physical limitations today
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) July 3, 2015
Most damning is Bouchard, who lost in the first round against qualifier Duan Ying-Ying only one year after reaching the final of this same Wimbledon Grand Slam. Her troubles, actually, can be traced back to this very match: Bouchard has now lost 12 of her past 14 matches, and only has 8 wins since falling on her face against Petra Kvitova in the 2014 Wimbledon final. It’s so bad that Canadian columnists are writing #hottakes, thinking that there simply has to be something wrong in Bouchard’s personal life—because, well, how else can you explain this?
Eugenie Bouchard is a complete mess. Hard to stomach just how bad this free fall has gotten. Lost in straight sets to 117th ranked in world? — Darren Dupont (@darrendupont) June 30, 2015
— Mike Le Couteur (@mikelecouteur) June 30, 2015
What’s wrong? No one knows for sure, which is why it’s silly to give credence to any theory unless you would know for a fact. But Bouchard can’t win anymore, and this is now a problem. That’s because we’ve come to expect so many great things from Bouchard in so little time (and Pospisil and Raonic too, albeit to a lesser extent).
We’ve come to expect greatness from Bouchard, despite the fact that she is still only 21 years old and that she enjoyed about as perfect of a beginning to her career as you can dream of; unfair or not, it shouldn’t be surprising to see her struggle after not struggling at all.
More thoughts on Bouchard, here.
She’s not just “struggling” though, of course. Bouchard appears to have lost her confidence, abilities and self-belief, a dangerous combination. If this is the end for her, and the dream of our dream for her, then so be it. It would only mean that she never was meant to be the next Maria Sharapova, which would simply make her like literally every other tennis player: very good, but not excellent. It would be about time for Canada to meet that standard.
But there is still hope for Canada. Indeed, a season does not necessarily have make a career for the likes of Bouchard and Raonic; plus, if the lesser player of the trio in Pospisil is the country’s “new tennis hope,” then everything should be fine for Canada.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG